The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation SA (Naptosa) says teacher unions expect to be part of the meetings that will discuss the possible return of school pupils to 100% daily attendance.
The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) director-general Mathanzima Mweli is meeting with education provincial heads at annual two-day workshops where they discussed all issues affecting education, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said.
He confirmed that as part of that meeting, the school’s attendance would also be discussed.
In an interview with television news channel eNCA, Mhlanga said the DBE was not the only one calling for full-time attendance. But said it would do so responsibly.
“We depend on the health experts to tell us what is possible,” he said.
Most public schools are attending on a rotation schedule, the hybrid model. This means pupils are in school two days in one week and three days the following week – five days fortnightly.
Schools with resources make use of online remote learning on the days that they are at home.
Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said as unions they expect to be a part of this discussion.
“We are expecting to be asked to a meeting, it is important that the unions have key role players who are going to be involved in this,” he said.
Manuel said the issue of full-time learning was complex as there were a number of factors that need to be considered. He said the union recognised that pupils, especially those in Grade 1 and Grade 2 were falling behind as well as the deficit it caused in reading and writing.
“We are worried. On the other hand, we have always said there are certain principles that are non-negotiable and those include the fact that schools must be health and safety aware and that the health and safety of our members must be absolute as well as that of the children.
“As much as we want to enter this debate, we also want to see what a part of the debate becomes, if this does happen how do we ensure safety. Social distancing, we know that they are now saying to us that we don’t have to have the same distance as we had before, but what about schools that have 60 pupils per class?” Manuel asked.
Manuel stressed that there cannot be a two-tier system where some pupils go back and some don’t go back.
He said there was a great need to have a holistic debate about this issue which would also take into account the anxiety of teachers and education staffers.
“Even if the science says differently the anxiety is still there because people have read all sorts of nonsense over time spread by a whole lot of people and some people have bought into this. So we are saying it’s about the health and safety of teachers and learners, the context in which schools are catered, how do we deal with the schools that are so different in so far as numbers are concerned, how do we ensure the compliance of the health and safety,” Manuel said.